By Tom Robinson, NEPAElite.com
MANHEIM – Mackenzie Schirg and Kiyomi McMiller each turned in a pair of team-leading performances Sunday to complete a weekend in which they led their NEPA Elite girls teams in scoring in all four games while also making other contributions during the Select Events Basketball’s Prime Event East at Spooky Nook Sports.
Schirg opened the day with a double-double while helping the NEPA Elite Butler 16U team win a four-team consolation bracket on the second day of the two-day event.
McMiller went through a stretch in which she made 17 of 20 shots from late in the first half of the day’s first game until late in the first half of the second game. She scored 70 points while the NEPA Elite Clark 17U team was splitting two games in a consolation bracket.
Schirg, a rising junior at Lackawanna Trail, had at least 14 points in each game, finishing the weekend with 65 points, 30 rebounds and 6 steals.
McMiller, from Silver Springs, Md., scored at least 20 in each game. She went 8-for-8 from inside the arc in the second half of Sunday’s first game, then made her first five 3-point attempts in the last game to finish the weekend with 112 points, while also leading the team in rebounds with 33 and assists with 11.
All five teams began the day with wins, although in one case that victory came from a forfeit.
A recap of each of the teams from Sunday’s games:
Butler 16U team
Coach Greg Butler came away from the previous weekend’s stop in East Stroudsburg for The Hoop Group Girls Pennsylvania Jam Fest thinking his 16U team had finished with its best game of the season.
The squad followed it up with what Butler said was its best full tournament-performance to date.
Playing in one of the four-team consolation brackets created from teams that lost 2024 Gold Division games Saturday, the NEPA Elite Butler 16U team won the bracket by beating Maryland Belles 2024, 64-46, then the New Jersey Sparks, 38-21.
While playing without season scoring leader Brenna Hunt, who is lost for the remainder of the season for treatment to an existing injury, the Butler team finished 2-2 on the weekend. Two Saturday losses came by eight and five points to a pair of teams that each went on to win three times at the event.
“The first two games that we lost, we were in both games even though we were a bit shorthanded,” Butler said. “ … We really played our best ball. I think we’re getting a little better as we go through the year despite key losses.
“I’m happy with our progress at this point.”
Schirg followed up a 19-point effort in Saturday’s second game by leading the win over Maryland with 17 points and 11 rebounds. She had 15 points and 7 rebounds against New Jersey.
“This is her second year with me,” said Butler, who coached Schirg on a 15U team last year. “She continues to get better. She really is that player that can go both inside and outside, which makes her a threat.
“ … She’s always willing to do the dirty work, but she also has some skill that goes with it. I just describe her sometimes as a scorer. She can score and we certainly need that at times.”
Schirg made a pair of 3-pointers in three of the four weekend games, but also powered her way to the basket on drives and through her dozen offensive rebounds.
Butler said that while Schirg was the clear leader on the weekend, “with the others, everybody did something that helped us win these last two games.”
While Schirg had the double-double, Ella Cooper added a strong all-around game against the Belles. She finished with 13 points, 5 assists and 4 steals.
Isabella Dennebaum added 10 points.
Jenna Luciani hit three 3-pointers for nine points and Gabby Marsola made a pair from beyond the arc as part of her eight-point effort.
Marsola also had four assists while Lily Butler chipped in seven points, five rebounds and three assists.
NEPA Elite held the Sparks to 21 points in the finale.
Cooper again joined Schirg in double figures in scoring with 10 points.
Marsola added six points and three assists. She matched Luciani for the team lead of two steals.
Luciani and Lily Butler are both from Holy Cross. Cooper is from Valley View, Dennebaum from Scranton Prep and Marsola from Wyoming Valley West.
“We have to kind of scratch and claw to get some wins, but I enjoy these kids and their efforts a lot,” Butler said. “They’re a great bunch.”
Clark 17U team
McMiller scored 37 points in a 68-65 victory over Castle Athletics 3SSB from New York City, 68-85, then had 33 points in a 75-69 loss to New York Havoc 2023 Blue Florence GUAA.
The team was playing in a consolation bracket in the 2023 Platinum Division.
NEPA Elite turned a 13-point deficit into a 51-44 lead with a 26-6 run against Castle Athletics. After scoring 10 of the last 12 points of the first half to close within 40-35, NEPA Elite kept going with a 16-4 start to the second half.
During the second-half part of the run, Ella Wilson hit consecutive 3-pointers to tie the game, erasing the last deficit, then put NEPA Elite ahead.
Wilson and Daniella Ranieli also had 3-pointers during the strong close to the first half. In all, Wilson had 11 points during the run, McMiller 8, Ranieli 5 and Cadie Lewis 2.
After Castle recovered to tie the game at 58-58 with four minutes left, McMiller scored the next six NEPA Elite points, then fired a long lead pass for a Wilson score in transition.
Castle made it a one-point game for the last time before Emily Romanowski’s steal and hard drive to the basket closed the scoring.
NEPA Elite protected the basketball successfully while Castle was forced to foul five times in 30 seconds while trying to get to the bonus during the final minute.
The team then defended well on Castle’s final possession, forcing a long a 3-point attempt that Ranieli got a piece of, leaving it far short of the mark.
Wilson finished with 13 points and matched McMiller for the team lead of 8 rebounds. McMiller also had four assists while Wilson had two steals and two blocks.
Lewis chipped in nine points while Ranieli and Marasia Dyes had two steals each.
Each team made 10 shots from 3-point range while New York Havoc, from the Albany area, was holding off NEPA Elite in the finale.
In addition to McMiller hitting her first five 3-point attempts of the game, Romanowski and Lewis each were 2-for-4 from long range and Wilson made one.
McMiller had 23 points in the game’s first 11:38 to keep NEPA Elite within five, but Havoc then scored the last 8 points of the first half and the first 3 of the second half for a 42-36 lead.
Romanowski finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds.
McMiller also had team-highs of nine rebounds and five assists.
Lewis had eight points.
Wilson and Dyes added seven each. Wilson also had six rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. Dyes had five rebounds and two steals.
Ranieli had a team-high three steals.
The Clark 17U team finished 1-3 for the weekend.
Wilson is from Lake-Lehman; Ranieli from Pittston Area; Romanowski from Western Wayne; Lewis from Dunmore. Dyes, from Johnson City, N.Y., plays at Seton Catholic in Binghamton.
Macciocco 16U team
Emily McDonald and Finley Bittenbender came through down the stretch as The NEPA Elite Macciocco 16U team began the day with its second straight win in the 2024 Gold Division, beating New York Havoc 2024 White-Bowman, 42-36.
NEPA Elite was then eliminated by New Heights NYC 16U Red, 47-26, to finish a 2-2 weekend.
With the defense allowing just one point over nearly five minutes to end the game, it cleared the way for McDonald and Bittenbender to combine on a game-ending, 8-0 run to pull out the victory over the Havoc.
McDonald scored a tough fastbreak finish off a Bittenbender feed for a three-point play and 37-36 advantage, forcing the seventh and final lead change of the second half to go along with five ties.
NEPA Elite forced a turnover and Bittenbender hit a three-pointer from the left corner to open a four-point lead with 2:15 left.
An effective delay game took much of the final 1:34 off the clock and McDonald hit both ends of a one-and-one late to wrap up the scoring.
The late surge completed a recovery from hitting just one field goal in the first eight minutes but remaining within 8-3 behind a strong defensive effort.
McDonald and Bittenbender had 3-pointers late in the half to close the gap, then Gabby Marsola opened the second half with another for a 19-19 tie.
Another Marsola 3-pointer was responsible for the first lead change. Sophia Talutto and Kennedy Bittenbender each scored four straight points to create the next two ties NEPA Elite moved in front.
McDonald led a balanced effort with nine points and five rebounds.
Finley Bittenbender had eight points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Marsola had eight points and seven rebounds. Each hit two 3-pointers.
Talutto, who had four assists, and Kennedy Bittenbender scored six points each.
Elyse Montgomery scored five points and blocked four shots.
Finley Bittenbender made two more 3-pointers while matching McDonald for the team lead of six points in the last game of the tournament. McDonald led the team in rebounds with five.
Talutto had five assists and Montgomery had three steals.
The Bittenbenders are from Scranton. McDonald is from Abington Heights; Marsola is from Wyoming Valley West; Talutto from Dunmore; and Montgomery from Honesdale.
Rini 15U team
The NEPA Elite Rini 15U team opened the day in a 2025 Platinum Division consolation bracket where it received a forfeit over GTS Fusion.
The team played an exhibition with Castle NYC instead and lost, 60-48.
Comets Select then edged NEPA Elite, 30-28, in the bracket final.
Jenna Hillebrand led the way in the exhibition game with 17 points, including 13 in the second half when she made her first 5 shots.
Ella Smith added 12 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals.
Maggie O’Shea scored 10 points.
Smith had 9 points and 10 rebounds in the final game. She had eight to help NEPA Elite to a 14-12 halftime lead.
Isabella Dennebaum added six points and seven rebounds.
Hillebrand and Dennebaum are front Scranton Prep; Smith is from Wallenpaupack; and O’Shea is from Scranton.
The Rini team finished 1-4 on the weekend with two of the losses coming by two points.
Clark 13U team
The NEPA Elite Clark 13U team completed its 3-0 run through Pool C of the 2027 Division with a 58-34 victory over I-90 Elite 2027.
The winners of Pools A-D made up the age group’s four-team championship bracket where Team Takeover 7th Elite defeated NEPA Elite, 53-45, on its way to the title.
Team Takeover used aggressive pressure defense to create 18 steals that it turned into 22 points.
The game was tied five times and there were eight lead changes, the last of which came when Team Takeover put together a 14-3 run in the middle of the second half.
NEPA Elite remained in the game by shooting 8-for-20 from 3-point range.
Chrissy Jacklinski was 2-for-2 from long range while Cora Castellani and Eva Kaszuba were each 2-for-5. Emma Coleman made her only attempt while Ella Clementoni was 1-for-2.
Castellani led the team with 14 points and 6 steals while Jacklinski had 10 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
Clementoni had six points, six steals and four assists. Ava Fenton, who made three straight shots in the first half, and Kaszuba, who grabbed six rebounds, each scored six points.
Castellani, Kaszuba and Fenton are from Valley View; Jacklinski is from Scranton; Clementoni from North Pocono; and Coleman from Abington Heights.
The semifinal brought an end to a seven-game winning streak by NEPA Elite, which had won 10 of its previous 11 games.